Updated as of 11:46 a.m. on April 24 to include video.

Elon University senior Samantha Katz wears an Israeli flag around her back during a rally on Elon’s Phi Beta Kappa Commons on Oct. 9, 2023 to condemn the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Elon University was one of only two schools to receive an “A” from the Anti-Defamation League, based on policies protecting Jewish students from antisemitism on campus, Jewish student life and other factors. The report was released on April 11 and graded 85 universities and colleges in the United States. Thirteen schools received an “F,” including University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The ADL focused on how Elon provided opportunities for students and faculty to learn about the conflict following the Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7, 2023.

“Elon highlighted opportunities to learn more about the attack and encouraged occasions for dialogue, including an event entitled ‘Contextualizing the Conflict: Conversations about the Middle East,’ which was attended by over 200 students, faculty and staff,” the ADL report card stated. 

The ADL also credited Elon’s “A” to a variety of initiatives and training on campus. The report listed Elon Hillel’s campus climate initiative in 2021, Hillel’s antisemitism awareness training in 2023, Elon’s 2022-23 Multi Faith Strategic Planning Committee Report’s commitment to support education and training on bias, including Islamophobia and antisemitism. 

Despite the positive ranking, freshman Andrew Kochman, a Jewish student, feels that recent events on campus do not warrant the positive grade.

“I am very proud to go to a school that has done so much for the Jewish community,” Kochman said. “But recently, especially given the tensions in the Middle East, I think Elon has done a poor job in maintaining that grade-A status.”

Kochman did not feel that Jonathan Kuttab, an international human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and Nonviolence International, should have been invited to campus, due to his views and online presence. 

Kuttab, spoke to the Elon community on April 8, on possible solutions to the Israel-Hamas War. The ADL report card did reference this speaker being invited to campus and referenced Kuttab as, “an anti-Israel advocate who promotes BDS and has said that he ‘refuse(s) to join the demonization of Hamas.’”

During the event, Kuttab discussed his perspective on the Israel-Hamas War and said that he would challenge the narrative in ways not everyone would agree with. 

Since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war, Kuttab has been active on social media, often reposting tweets condemning Zionism and referring to Israel’s actions as genocide. On April 9, he tweeted a link to a Change.org petition saying, “Promote the Peace of Jerusalem: Stand Against Christian Zionist Extremism.”

“When me and my Jewish peers looked into his background before his presentation, we notified the school about some of his dangerous views surrounding terrorism and sexual assault and the school pretty much ignored us and called him a peacemaker,” Kochman said. “He came to school, he did the presentation, and he spewed a good amount of lies and hate speech, so that made a lot of Jews here uncomfortable and following the presentation the school stayed defending him.”

However, even in moments like this, Kochman said he feels supported by the resources Elon provides. 

“The first thing I did was talk to the Chabad Rabbi and he was incredible in supporting me and helping get the word out there,” Kochman said. “There were a lot of kids that came to him and members of Hillel showing their discomfort and they helped start a conversation with the school board and members of the committee that brought the speaker.

Sophomore Dani Rudd, Hillel engagement intern and tour guide, believes that Elon has created a positive environment for the Jewish community. 

“They handle a lot of scary things that happen in the Jewish world,” Rudd said. “I find that when there are things happening there’s always a lot of different Jewish and non-Jewish staff present and saying ‘Hey, let’s check in. How are you doing?’”

Rudd also thinks that this grade will increase the appeal of Elon to Jewish students. 

As of the spring 2024 semester, 9.2% of Elon’s total student body population is Jewish. The campus Jewish population has continued to increase since 2022, according to Elon’s registrar’s report. Elon Hillel’s website also states the class of 2027 has the largest number of Jewish students in Elon University’s history. 

“As a tour guide for Hillel, I really emphasize that welcoming community that we have,” Rudd said. “I think that the ADL title will really only just be something we add to why being Jewish at Elon is so great.”

Betsy Polk, director of Jewish life, did not respond to Elon News Network’s immediate request for comment. The Truitt Center Chaplain on call declined to comment. 

The ADL reviewed 85 of liberal arts colleges, which the ADL website describes as the “top 30 private and top 30 public campuses with the highest enrollment of Jewish students.” They sent each school a questionnaire and considered pending federal investigations related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Elon, Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill were the only North Carolina schools evaluated. 

The 21 criteria for a school’s grade were split into three categories, “Publicly Disclosed Administrative Actions and Policies,” “Jewish Student Life on Campus” and “Incidents.” For policies, the ADL evaluated if antisemitism was referenced in its code of conduct, if they have mandatory antisemitism education, if there are transparent religious accommodations policies and more. 

The ADL evaluated “Jewish Student Life on Campus” through considerations such as campuses having an active Hillel or Chabad, Jewish greek organizations and Jewish studies programs — among other factors. The ADL also considered if campuses had had severe antisemitic or anti-Zionist incidents, hostile antisemitic or anti-Zionist activity by student government organizations, hostile anti-Zionist groups or antisemitic speakers on campus.

The only other school in the report who received an “A” was Brandeis University, a school where 35% of the student population is Jewish. 

Anjolina Fantaroni contributed to the reporting of this story.